‘The Perfect Match Premiere’: Queen Latifah Supports Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone
‘Nina’: Zoe Saldana Criticized for ‘Blackface’ Makeover
Saldana recently reignited a torrent of comment on social media after the trailer’s release on Wednesday. Many observers condemned the casting of light-skinned Saldana, who is of Dominican and Puerto Rican heritage, in the role of dark-skinned Simone, who celebrated her skin color and African features.
Saldana underwent a dramatic makeover that included dark makeup and a prosthetic nose. Outraged fans likened the transformation to blackface.
Noting that Saldana is “of African descent,” Queen Latifah said “I don’t see why she shouldn’t get to play the role. But I just want to see it — you know, get rid of the hype and let’s go watch the movie.”
“Nina” has been in distribution purgatory since it was screened at Cannes Film Festival in 2014. It moves forward with its release on April 22 without the blessing of Simone’s estate.
‘Nina’: Simone’s Estate Attacks Zoe Saldana
The late singer’s daughter told the New York Times in 2012 that she didn’t support Saldana in the role. “My mother was raised at a time when she was told her nose was too wide, her skin was too dark,” Simone Kelly said. “Appearance-wise this is not the best choice.”
Fueling controversy further, the Simone estate fired a stinging tweet at Saldana last week after the actress referenced the singer on Twitter: “Take Nina’s name out your mouth. For the rest of your life.”
‘The Perfect Match’ Premiere: Paula Patton Disappointed By ‘Negativity’
Paula Patton, who stars in “The Perfect Match,” said she’s “not into negativity like that.”
“I think it’s a horrible thing to put that on somebody,” Patton said. “Clearly someone thought she was perfect for it. She’s an amazing actress, she’s beautiful and you haven’t even given her a chance and you haven’t seen it yet.”
‘Nina’: More Supporters for Zoe Saldana Speak Out
“Nina’s” writer-director Cynthia Mort also defended Saldana’s casting, insisting that she should be judged based on her performance, not appearance.
“Zoe gave an amazingly courageous and great performance,” Mort told EW Thursday. “I think that’s all that should matter.”
“Nina” distributor, RLJ Entertainment, also issued a statement from its founder and chairman, Robert L. Johnson, who’s also the founder of BET (Black Entertainment Television).
“Zoe Saldana delivers an exceptional and mesmerizing tribute to Nina Simone,” Johnson said. “She gave her heart and soul to the role and displayed her extraordinary talent. The most important thing is that creativity or quality of performance should never be judged on the basis of color, or ethnicity, or physical likeness.
“Quality entertainment should be measured by the sheer force of creativity and the commitment that an actor or actress brings to the performance. We are proud to distribute the film headlined by Zoe Saldana and David Oyelowo on April 22, 2016.”
Nina Simon’s official Facebook page suggests watching the documentary instead of viewing “Nina” in theaters when it opens, writing, “We can use this date as an other opportunity to celebrate Nina’s life and music.”
“Nina” chronicles the 15-time Grammy nominee and Grammy Hall of Fame Recipient’s turbulent life ahead of her comeback following years of depression, alcohol abuse and isolation. David Oyelowo stars as her manager and friend Clifton Henderson, who helps reignite her career and passion for music.